LGBTQ athletes don't hold back in ESPN's awesomely inclusive Body Issue.

Warning: Some images in this article show partial nudity and may be NSFW.

What does an athlete look like?

Tall? Short? Slender? Buff? There's no right or wrong answer, really. They come in various sizes, shapes, colors, sexual orientations, and genders, with all sorts of abilities and disabilities too.

ESPN magazine has been helping challenge misperceptions about athletes and their bodies since its annual Body Issue debuted in 2009. And this year's edition is continuing to push boundaries in exciting ways.  





For the first time, same-sex partners appear together in the much-anticipated issue.

WNBA star Sue Bird and her partner soccer player Megan Rapinoe snapped pics for the publication, and the photos are pretty darn fantastic.


Bird (left) and Rapino (right). Photo by Radka Leitmeritz/ESPN.

"It's pretty amazing to think about [being the first same-sex couple], especially in the times we're in," Rapinoe told the magazine. "Just think of how far we've come, but also the current climate and defiance in the face of that. Not only are we female athletes, but we're dating as well. It's kind of badass."

Rapino (left) and Bird (right). Photo by Radka Leitmeritz/ESPN.

Openly gay Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon is also in this year's issue.

“I couldn't have done this [shoot] while I was in the closet," Rippon said. "I think that, with my experience of coming out, I felt so liberated in so many ways.”

Photo by Mark Seliger/ESPN.

The magazine has also made strides to celebrate different body types and athletes with varied experiences outside of sports.

Tennis player Esther Vergeer, who uses a wheelchair, graced its pages in 2010. MLB player Prince Fielder's appearance in the 2014 issue sparked the body positive hashtag #HuskyTwitter into existence.

Transgender triathlete Chris Mosier continued breaking down barriers in 2016 with his feature in the magazine.

"Now I feel very comfortable in my own skin," Mosier explained. "I think the reason I felt so inspired to do it is that I'm finally at a place where I feel very comfortable with my body. And as a trans person, being in a body that didn't really fit me for 29 years, now I feel very comfortable in my own skin."

Blazing these trails matters.

Young people are watching sports — and reading magazine spreads. And when they can see themselves in the stars on a soccer field, or Olympians in an ice skating rink, it makes big dreams much more achievable.

"I think it's important to do these things first," Rapinoe told ESPN for this year's issue. "It's important for people to come out. Visibility is important."

Check out a preview gallery of the 2018 Body Issue before it hits stands on June 29.

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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